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To Catch A Thief

September 15, 2006

You know the passage in the Bible where Jesus says, “The thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy.”

And then He goes on to say, “I have come that you may have life…and have it abundantly.”

A woman once told me a story (true story) about being in her bed asleep…with her husband sleeping next to her…and she was awakened by a sound and upon opening her eyes she realized that a stranger was in her bedroom stealing jewelry and other items.  She was terrified and strickened immobile. She did not know exactly what to do for fear that if she scream and awoke her husband…the thief might have a gun and kill her family. So she just lay there, watching him take her things, praying that he would just leave and not cause harm to her or her family.

Now I’ve never personally had such an experience as having a thief enter my home…I hope it never happens, especially while I am at home. But hearing about this and other similar incidents on the news, I can understand how debilitating this experience could be.  And at times when I’ve been afraid in my own home, I can attest that it is the most unnerving, uncomfortable feeling in the world — to be afraid — of the thief.

It’s not so much that I would hate to lose “stuff” — it’s more that my safe place, my home…my refuge had been compromised.

Over the past few months, I have been in that place “mentally.”

Now in my 43 years on this earth, depression and despair have not been states that I freqently visited or dwelt. I’ve had times of sadness. I have had times of desperation. But for the most part, I have always been able to “shake” these demons and “roll on.”

I remember twice in over 40 years feeling like I just could not pull myself up by my bootstraps.   Both times, I do believe there was a thief prowling around my “safe place” — and I don’t mean the house I live in.

Back in the mid-90’s, I went through a time when my whole existence was shaken to the core. I had poured my heart and soul into a work and relationships — and they were stripped away.  I lost plenty of material things, but I had not held too tightly to those anyway.  The greatest loss was my sense of purpose and passion.  I loved the work that I had been doing…and I did it very well. Unfortunately, it had become more important to me than the ONE who had called me to it.

I was devastated. I vowed to never allow anything or anyone to capture that much of my heart/soul/sinew again. It just hurt too badly to lose that much of me.

I was beaten by outward appearances. I felt beaten on the inside too. But the one thing that helped me process through it…was my ability to write and express the pain and anguish of my heart.  Hardly anyone ever saw my writings, so basically it was just a means for me to express my feelings. It was therapy…and it was something that brought me great joy even if I never made one dime from it or if no one ever read it.

I have been a journaler since I was about ten years old. I wrote everyday about something. It was just something I had to do…but the expressions of my heart through journals became very precious to me over the years.

When I was seventeen, unaware of the ploys of the “thief” — I was encouraged to stop journaling because if I had any “private” feelings I was supposed to share them with the love of my life. So for about five years, I did not write at all…”because it was a silly pastime.”

When that “love of my life” left — I was left without anyone or anyway to share the feelings of my heart. I felt like an empty shell — and wondered how I was supposed to deal with this sudden and tragic circumstance in my life.

Then I was reminded that I was a writer.  I found a good pen and pad of paper…and from the depths of my heart came words, “a fire”  that had been “shut up in my bones.”  You cannot realize the freedom that came with finally being able to express myself again. It was my only means of experiencing freedom and transparency.

I vowed then that no one would ever rob me of my “need to write” again.  And so I wrote and wrote and wrote…about anything and everything for the next 20 years.

In all honesty, ever having anything published was a far-fetched dream. Every now and then, I’d get something published in the local newspaper…and receive many compliments. Still, getting paid to write was beyond my wildest imagination.

Until one day, I got a job as a reporter. It paid so very little that eventually I had to give it up in order to feed me and the children…but at least I had achieved the goal of being a “paid” writer.

Still, I continued to write…plays, poems, songs, stories, guest columns, letters…just about anything that had words.  I’d share my stuff here and there…thinking that one day these “creative” pieces would mean something to someone.

From a very young age, I had been told that I had the gift of communicating through the written word.  A few teachers and church folk would say, “It’s a gift from God.”

“Okay. It’s a gift from God. What does that mean?” I thought.

Now I did genuinely believe that my talent for writing was bestowed by God.  It was a long time before I ever could see that He gave it to me to use for Him. It was difficult for me to actually believe that He would even want to use anything I could offer. But then I discovered that each time I had something published…even in the Polk County News…even though I did not get paid one dime for it…it never failed that at least one person (but sometimes many) came to me, sought me out, called me on the phone to tell me how much my article had blessed them.

I thought, “How odd!”  Most of the time, I was just “venting” and writing about something that I was sure only stirred my heart.

As I began to listen to God about my writing…and realize that He was indeed providing more and more opportunities for me to use this gift for Him…I felt completely humbled by this knowledge.  As I practiced this talent…and studied ways to improve my writing skills by reading and researching…I began to see and feel that writing was a very effective tool in ministry.

“Could it be?  Could I actually be used as a minister…through writing?”  I wondered.
Then I would quickly dismiss this thought…convincing myself that there was no way that would ever happen.

But, GOD…He’s got a plan. His ways are higher than mine…His thoughts are higher than mine. And He connects dots that we don’t even know He is connecting…

Over the past seven years, my desire to write and my relationship with God have grown hand-in-hand.  Much of my journaling over those years has been “letters to my  Lord Jesus Christ.”  These journals are precious to me…just as they were many years ago. The only difference now is that I do have an audience…an Audience of One. These are my prayer journals…and though I don’t write in them every day…it’s when I do that I feel most healthy, most whole, most purposeful. Prayer journaling everyday is what makes me feel most like the Carole I need and want to be.   It gives me joy…it gives me a “FRIEND” or Companion to bounce ideas off…it helps me develop other ideas for ministry. It’s my safe place, my haven and my place of refuge to meet with my Savior.

But the thief…he’s ever prowling around…waiting for that opportunity to “break in.”

For the past few months, I’ve felt like that woman who shared her “thief” story with me. I feel like one day, I was awakened by the thief…in my “safe place” — and I’ve been too afraid to move or breathe or “write” anticipating that he might cause further destruction or devastation.  I felt like a captive…a hostage…because I was restricted from writing…creating…living out my passion and my calling.

Like the woman, I only knew to pray and ask God to “free me” of this captivity. There were many, many times that I felt so fearful and sad that I could not breathe. I felt mournful and all I could do was “cry” — but I could not cry outloud because I felt it necessary to not let the “thief” know that I was awake and aware of his ploy…for fear of further repercussions.

To the best of my memory, that woman’s story ended with the thief taking some of her prized possessions. He did some damage to her home. But moreover, he left her with the most incredible sense of insecurity…and for a long time she lived in fear every night in her own home.

She doesn’t know if the thief was ever caught.

I know that I cannot live that way. The thought occurs to me that if you let the thief steal from you once…what’s to keep him from coming back and doing it again. So you have to do something to catch a thief…

A person has to be able to feel safe and to sleep soundly at night…so she can be her best for her God…her family…and herself.

How do you catch a thief?

It’s not by ignoring him. And it is dangerous to try and fend him off by yourself.  Even if he gets away the first time, the next time you must take measures to make sure he doesn’t steal from you again.

Neighborhood watches are good to have. So are friends who stand with you and help you defend yourself against the enemy.

An alarm or security system is also very comforting. At the first sign of a tampering or a break in…an alarm goes off and soon help is on the way.   That’s how prayer is too. As soon as you feel under attack, sound the alarm…PRAY…and Jesus is the Guardian to come to your rescue.

Some people arm themselves…they have a weapon within reach just in case a thief does break in to their home.  Paul, the Apostle, tells us to “put on the whole armour of God.”  I think a thief would think twice about breaking in to a home that they knew was well-armed.  And the Bible says, with the armour of God, we are able to wield off the “fiery darts of Satan.”

The thief was caught when the woman opened her eyes.  Fear gripped her right off the bat…as it would anyone.  When we recognize that we are under attack…when our eyes are opened to what’s going on…we are also often so stunned by the situation that we are without recourse…we feel defenseless.

Fear kept her from crying out…fear kept her from waking her husband…fear left her a victim of the thief.  After he was gone…she was relieved…but still afraid.

To catch the thief and forever rid herself of the insecurity that has since plagued her, she would have had to come to grips with her fear and strategically launch a defense. She would have had to find the strength, confidence and courage to defend her home …her safe place…from this and any future attacks from the thief…even if it was uncomfortable or worse, destructive.

Likewise, I had to come to that point too.  I had to recognize that “my refuge” — my place of calling and purpose and passion…is worth defending, even if I suffer more injury along the way.

To catch a thief is to maintain peace and joy and freedom.

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